The unemployment rates, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clearly understate unemployment. When we count people who work part-time but want full-time work, those who are marginally attached to the labor force, the overall unemployment rate rises from 7.3 percent to 14.6 percent. The Black unemployment, reported at 13 percent, soars to 26 percent, a depression level of unemployment. It is undeniable that the unemployment rate is improving, with overall unemployment dropping from 8.1 percent a year ago to 7.3 percent today. But the downward pace has been glacial, with the level of job creation (169,000) too slow to keep up with job loss. Millions will remain unemployed for the next six months or so.
Against this backdrop, Congress has the temerity to propose legislation that will deny millions of families SNAP benefits. Their indifference to joblessness and poverty is amazing. They’ve not exhibited similar indifference for those at the top, maintaining tax breaks for them.
Steve and Laurie struggle to make ends meet. They are good, hardworking people just like millions of others. They work part time for economic reasons, preferring full-time work. They need food stamps, and it is not clear, under proposed legislation, whether they will qualify for them. I worry about Steve and Laurie, and I also worry about the 11.3 million unemployed people, the 4.3 million who have not worked in half a year, and the two to four million families who will not qualify for SNAP. Worry is not enough, though.
This is yet another reason why a people’s uprising is necessary. The uprising must transcend racial lines—it ought to reflect Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign. Congress won’t change its indifference to the poor unless somebody makes them.
Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and author.
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